The scriptures tell of attempts by numerous people to cause Jesus Christ to trip over His words. One such person was a “certain lawyer” who asked the Savior, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life.” Jesus answered with two questions: “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” The lawyer obviously knew what the scriptures said.
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.
And he [Jesus] said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (See John 10:25-29.)
This was not the end of the conversation, but it is good for us to discuss the principles referred to in the above verses. The first principle is that we must love God and love our neighbors in order to obtain eternal life. How are we to love God? Jesus said that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind. This means that we are to love God with our whole self. President Ezra Taft Benson taught the following about this commandment.
To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being – physical, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – to a love of the Lord.
The breadth, depth, and height of this love of God extend into every facet of one’s life. Our desires, be they spiritual or temporal, should be rooted in a love of the Lord. Our thoughts and affections should be centered on the Lord. “Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord,” said Alma, “yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever” (Alma 37:36).
Why did God put the first commandment first? Because He knew that if we truly loved Him we would want to keep all of His other commandments. “For this is the love of God,” says John, “that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3; see also 2 John 1:6). We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. He must come first, just as He declares in the first of His Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.
We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.
President Benson explains that we must love God with our whole being and that our love for Him cannot be lukewarm. We show our love for God by keeping His commandments and doing His will. In other words, our love for God guides our words and actions. Now let us go back to Luke’s account.
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise (Luke 10:29-37).
These verses clearly teach the principle that we are commanded to love and serve those in need, regardless of their race, religion, tribe, or social class. The priest and the Levite had the priesthood duty to care for the wounded man, but they shirked their responsibilities. The Samaritan was actually doing what the priest and the Levite should have done. President Thomas S. Monson went about doing good in service to mankind. He taught the following about loving our neighbors.
Each of us, in the journey through mortality, will travel his own Jericho Road. What will be our experience? What will be mine? Will I fail to notice him who has fallen among thieves and requires my help? Will you? Will I be one who sees the injured and hears his plea, yet crosses to the other side? Will you? Or will I be one who sees, who hers, who pauses, and who helps? Will you?
Jesus provided our watchword: “Go, and do thou likewise.” When we obey that declaration, there opens to our view a vista of joy seldom equaled and never surpassed.
Now the Jericho Road may not be clearly marked. Neither may the injured cry out, that we may hear. But when we walk in the steps of that good Samaritan, we walk the pathway that leads to perfection.
President Monson demonstrated by his actions throughout his lifetime that he would have been one who crossed the road to help someone in need. He set an excellent example of one who walks the path to perfection. President Howard W. Hunter added the following reminder:
I suggest to you that the Lord has prepared a touchstone for you and me, an outward measurement of inward discipleship that marks our faithfulness and will survive the fires yet to come….
The answer of Jesus to the lawyer might be considered as the Lord’s touchstone. He said on another occasion, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). He will measure our devotion to him by how we love and serve our fellowmen. What kind of mark are we leaving on the Lord’s touchstone? Are we truly good neighbors? Does the test show us to be 24-karat gold, or can the trace of fool’s gold be detected? …
The Samaritan gave us an example of pure Christian love. He had compassion; he went to the man who had been injured by the thieves and bound up his wounds. He took him to an inn, cared for him, paid his expenses, and offered more if needed for his care. This is a story of the love of a neighbor for his neighbor.
… We need to remember that though we make our friends, God has made our neighbors – everywhere. Love should have no boundary; we should have no narrow loyalties.
We should be grateful for the smug lawyer who asked Jesus Christ how to inherit eternal life. His question brought forth great teachings about the two great commandments. All of God’s commandments fall under these two commandments.